[*]When will Apple drop the distinction between iPhone and iPad apps?

When the iPad was released, things were simple: iPhones had 3.5 inch screens, iPad had 9.7 inch screens. Apps were designed either for iPhone or for iPad (‘Universal’ apps just basically packaged the two UIs together). This certainly helped the iPad succeed: designers were forced to create a specific UI for each device, and thus the iPad apps were really adapted to the big screen.

IOS Screen Sizes

iOS Devices Screen Sizes at iPad Launch and Now…

Now things have changed. iPhone sizes are 3.5, 4, 4.7, 5.5 inches, iPad sizes are 7.9 and 9.7 inches. There is almost a continuum of sizes, and designing specific UIs is not so obvious any more.

When I started developing OneReader, I designed quite different interfaces for iPhone and iPad (more buttons on iPad, more gestures on iPhone…). The iPad interface scales well to the iPad Mini, and the iPhone interface works fine on the iPhone 6. But none is really suited to the iPhone 6 Plus. I guess it is the same for many apps — you cannot just design the same way for 4.7 and 5.5 inch screens.

In the meantime, Apple has provided developers with new tools to cope with different screen sizes: Autolayout since iOS 6, and now size classes among others. To app developers, devices do not appear any more as iPhones or iPads, but as devices with regular or compact width, regular or compact height. The mapping to devices is not really straightforward: regular height and regular width is iPad, what is compact height and regular width?

Apple is really encouraging developers to stop thinking in terms of iPhone and iPad. And this corresponds to an evolution of usage too: big screen phones can do many of the tasks that were thought to be for iPads only.

I think what happened to Marco Arment and his accidental iPad version of Overcast may well just a switch flipped too early. I would not be surprised that soon all apps will be ‘Universal’ and required to make use of size classes to adapt. I would certainly design a new app now with an adaptive user interface for all iOS devices instead of separate iPhone and iPad UIs.

There are persistent rumors of a bigger screen iPad, and of the future possibility to split the iPad screen between several applications. Soon an app may be running on an iPad in an iPhone-sized window. For this to work, apps will have to be able to adapt, and not have two separate iPhone and iPad UIs.

With iOS 8, all the pieces are there to drop the distinction. Better get our apps ready for when Apple makes it happen!

(Article also published on Medium)

[*]OneReader: all your news streams

The way we consume news online has evolved: we no longer visit home pages of web sites and we browse less for news. Most of our news comes from links exchanged by our contacts on social networks and RSS feeds for more advanced users. The common feature among modern methods of news consumption is the way in which the content is delivered: through streams of information.

OneReaderPromo

But currently, there is no easy way to consume our various streams in a coherent fashion. They all come with a different presentation, they are meant to be accessed by different apps, and news content is mixed with other types of content. We have to jump from app to app, open links just to check if an article may be interesting, get the same content over and over…

Reading the news we want is more time consuming than necessary and we are easily overwhelmed. In addition, we use more and more services to which we want to send that news: share again, read later, store for reference…

We are caught in the middle of input and output streams that we have to handle mostly manually.

There are certainly some news reading applications that help. But some are designed for a relaxed, magazine-like experience. Others are very efficient and fast but are restricted to RSS feeds. Some make choices on our behalf as to which articles we should read. None of these applications cater to the news addicts!

I designed OneReader as the app that sits across all of our news streams, making it easy to consume the news wherever it comes from, and to decide what to do with the articles we receive: read, share, store, skip.

OneReader

OneReader makes it efficient to browse a large amount of content, and this is achieved both by its features and its design.

It aggregates news from RSS feeds (it synchronizes with the most popular services: Feedly, Feedbin, Feed Wrangler) and from the links shared by our contacts on social networks: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, App.net.

The content from these various sources is presented in a consistent way; to achieve this the social network timelines are presented as streams of articles, pretty much like an RSS feed. The links are analyzed to show only articles. The original posts become comments to the articles – the news content comes first. When an article is received through several sources, it is presented as unread only once.

Several services

The user interface of OneReader makes it easy to breeze through articles. Gestures and large buttons (on the iPad) make it easy to navigate between articles. More gestures allow for jumping from timeline to timeline quickly. The major features (marking as read, sharing…) are always easily accessible, from a menu sliding from the right edge of the screen on iPhone and by buttons on the larger screen of the iPad.

Side Menu

These features make it easy to deal with hundreds of articles. OneReader does not do any filtering or prioritization of the articles. It was designed to make it as easy and fast as possible for its users to make their own decisions as to which articles they want to read. Still, additional features are planned for future versions to help tame huge streams… but that’s another story!

OneReader is published by Information Addicts, the company I created to develop applications for information-hungry people.

[*]Appstories #3 by Appsfire

On December 3rd, Appsfire organized  the third Appstories event, where successful app developers can present their experience. Thanks to Ouriel Ohayon and the Appsfire team for this great event! Here are my notes of some of the presentations.

Appstories2012

Edouard Andrieu, Le Monde

Le Monde is one of the major daily news paper in France. They have a successful web site and mobile applications.

  • Mobile page views are now as high as web page views. 54% comes from iOS devices, but Android is growing fast.
  • Mobile ads bring 15% of the revenues of digital ads (so much lower than web ads relative to page views…)
  • People want to scan news fast, but are ready to spend time reading when they find something they are interested in.

Jeff Clavier, SoftTech and Jean-David Chamboredon, ISAI

Major VCs in France.

  • In e-commerce, transactions are more numerous and at a higher value on iPad than iPhone.
  • Companies like Instagram are difficult to launch in Europe as the exit is to be acquired and there is no big enough players here.
  • Gaming is a difficult domain as it is hit driven, so they are not likely to invest.

Jean-Marie Hullot, Fotopedia

  • China is the biggest audience (22%), Japan in second (14%). US is behind (as people have little holidays and don’t travel much!).
  • They do cross promotion between their own apps with good success.
  • It is difficult to acquire users but even more so to retain them (25-30% lost after one day). They are moving from travel guide to travel magazine with fresh content to give more reason to use the app often. They also use push notification more more engagement. They optimized the notifications to make them as effective as possible by monitoring usage (what is the best time in the day, etc.).

Laurent Gatignol, iPhon.fr

Well known french blog for iPhone and iPad news.

How to attract attention from blogs and get reviews:

  • This is not typical PR so do not use typical PR forms (company profiles, etc…). Be careful if you hire PR firms, check that they know the specificities of this domain!
  • All contacts by email. All messages are read though not necessarily answered.
  • Tips for the contact email:
    • Keep it short!
    • 1 line introduction stating if it is a new app or an update. New apps are much more likely to be reviewed.
    • 3 lines for the ‘what’
    • 3 lines for the ‘why’
    • A link to the app store page if the app is released. Better than a link to your own web site, as the bloggers are used to the app store page format and can get the needed information quickly.
    • Including pictures is useful.
    • It’s good to have a video. Preferably hosted on YouTube, as it will appear embedded in the email for gmail users, so it can be watched immediately.
    • Including promo codes in the 1st email is a waste.
    • Avoid sending the email close to Apple keynotes as there is no space for app reviews at that time.
    • More emails are received at the end of the week, so better send at the beginning.
    • Avoid embargoes.
    • A press kit (as a zip file containing photos and such) can be useful but only if all the needed information is in the body of the email. Actually the iTunes store page is basically all the press kit that is needed.
  • A review may not create a huge spike in download, but news users are really engaged as they know what they download (that was a common theme of many of the presenters: engaged users are more important than raw number of downloads).

[@]Dear ITU, please don’t bill Internet use like phone calls

A good summary of how phone and data networks are different and how money flows between the operators involved in end to end communications in this article at Ars Technica.   It is very useful to know how these things work with the current discussions that are taking place on Internet regulation.

[.]News about news: Pocket and The Daily

On the same day, we learn that The Daily will publish its last edition this month, and that the read later service Pocket has sealed a new content partnership. Old media publishers really have a hard time these days. And how stories will be published in that ‘post PC’ world is really not settled yet…

[@] Travis Shrugged: The creepy, dangerous ideology behind Silicon Valley’s Cult of Disruption

A very interesting view from Paul Carr on the startups out to disrupt markets, like Uber and AirBnB. In their desire of going against established players, are they good for us?

Laws don’t exist merely to frustrate the business ambitions of coastal hipsters: They also exist to protect the more vulnerable members of society.

 And anyway, they do it for a reason:

A Disruptive company might very well succeed in exposing government crooks lining their pockets exploiting outdated laws, but that’s only so the Disruptor can line his own pockets through the absence of those same laws.

[*] There is method in the iOS map madness

As many others, when I upgraded my iPhone to iOS 6 I noticed that the points of interest in the new map application were all over the place. I initially thought that they were just at random locations, but actually it’s not (always) the case. I realized that many are located as if the streets were much wider than they really are, to the point they sometime overlap with the next parallel street. So the points of interest are pushed away from the streets into the buildings, and sometimes they are closer to the next street – which is very confusing.

Not clear? Here is an example. This is in Paris, but I have seen the same thing in many places (though it certainly does not explain all the problems!) In the figure, the businesses on ‘Rue d’Enghien’ are located as if the street was extended to the pink lines and those on ‘Rue de l’Echiquier’ as if that second street was extended to the orange lines. The businesses on the map are moved as shown by the arrows, and thus the places on those two streets are mixed up.

Location shift example

It’s crazy that such a blatant error made it to the released product, but it should be quite easy to solve – maybe just tweaking a parameter in the geocoding algorithm and those locations will be back to the right place!

Now I wonder if there is such a pattern that explains why so many businesses are in the wrong category😉

[.] A new way to sync Google Contacts

In addition to the previous methods to sync contacts with iOS devices, Google added a new protocol:

Starting today, we’re adding CardDAV – an open protocol for contacts – to that list. CardDAV enables 3rd party clients, like the iOS contacts app, to sync your Google contacts.

After testing it it, it seems this method is better than using Exchange. It is now possible to add relationships between contacts for use with Siri (“Call my wife”) which was not possible with contacts sync’ed with Exchange. Setup instructions are there

[@] The Apple Lightning connector

A very thorough analysis of the new Apple connector and why Micro USB would not have been enough.

All 8 pins are used for signals, and all or most can be switched to be used for power. 

This connector should be here to stay for a long time, maybe more than its predecessor.

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